“At least four other toddlers in the U.S. found guns and fatally shot themselves last week.”

In the seven days that ended Tuesday, in addition to the death of Ms. Price, a 3-year-old in Georgia, a 3-year-old in Louisiana, a 2-year-old in Missouri and a 2-year-old in Indiana fatally shot themselves; a 4-year-old in Texas shot and wounded a family member; a 16-year-old in California killed a 14-year-old friend in a shooting that officials called accidental; a 15-year-old in Texas accidentally shot and wounded a 16-year-old friend; and a 13-year-old in Indiana accidentally shot and wounded herself. –NYTimes

The news reads like dispatches from some terrible dystopia, a darkly comic novel of Saunders-like horror, the national epidemic of toddler suicide. It’s a surreal thrum of agony, this story of a land numbed by TV but flooded with cheap weaponry. The madness is anesthetized by politics and dim 18th-century chestpounding. It should be fiction, but it is news.It is the wire service from Hell, with each clause dryly containing immeasurable sadness.


Read more about a gnawing national madness…

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Like Reagan With Schweiker, Cruz VP Pick Shows Again He’s More Clever Than Smart

(12:10 CST, so things can change, but the point remains)

The political world is abuzz with the speculation that Ted Cruz, fresh off devastating losses last night, and looking to change the conversation away from Trump’s supposed inevitability, is just a few hours away from announcing his Vice President.

There is some precedence to this. In 1976, locked in a tight race with the incumbent Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan surprised everyone by announcing a VP pick, a hapless liberal Republican named Richard Schweiker, who died just last year. This was a disaster of a move, and many of the far-right movement which helped push him so close to the nomination felt betrayed.

(That this is largely unknown is because history has scrubbed how a greedy Reagan attacked Ford throughout a contentious primary, helping to elect Jimmy Carter. His “11th Commandment” apparently didn’t cover the incumbent President.)

Reagan had what seemed like a good reason for it. Ford had dropped Nelson Rockefeller, the VP he chosen after he was appointed President following Watergate, who was despised by the right. He had yet to say who Rocky’s replacement would be, and so Reagan hoped to either back him into a corner or make him look like he had something to hide. Conservatives, the thinking went, shouldn’t back him if he just might appoint another liberal. That Reagan picked a liberal was spun as just an opportunity for the Great Communicator to convert young Schweiker to conservativism, because, as always, Reagan was an incredible liar and self-mythologizer.

I think Cruz will do the same thing, self-righteously spin this to say that he is the principled one, and who knows who the liberal Donald Trump will pick, probably a tranny, you know? He’s standing up for people, and giving voters the right information, because he’s the only one with real values.

Ted Cruz’s gift is being able to convince himself that whatever craven move he’s making is one of unassailable principle, a trait he shares with Reagan. Reagan could convince them with charm. Cruz doesn’t have that, so his abilities speak more of his audience than it does of his innate gifts. But this move, like the Kasich alignment, is nothing more than a desperate move to change the headlines.

And the thing is, it will sort of work: it will change the headlines to talk about what a desperate clown he is, just like with Kasich. Because Cruz, for all his campaign’s organizational prowess, is a debater, not a strategist. He thinks in quips and believes that a clever move can carry the day. His soundbites sound good, and he is generally good with a zinger, if you are already in the tribe, but he trips over himself too much (to say nothing of when he calls a hoop a “basketball ring” in goddamn Indiana).  His line about transgendered bathrooms was a perfect example of this.

“Let me make this real real simple for folks in the media who find this conversation very confusing,” he said. “If Donald Trump dresses up as Hillary Clinton, he still can’t go to the girls’ bathroom!”

It works on the surface because it sounds simple, and makes the whole enterprise sound threatening, and mocks the media, and most importantly makes people think of Donald Trump in a dress like a girl or a queer, and somehow mocks Hillary Clinton, but it elides the point, ignores the real issue, and makes him seem like an idiot. It’s clever without being smart.

That’s what will happen here. He’ll sneer about how he’s standing up for people, but it won’t work. It will make him look desperate, and there is no real pick, outside of maybe a David Petreaus (who wouldn’t do it) who won’t make things even worse. It’s the flopsweat move of a man who thinks he’s twice as smart as he really is.

Especially if it is Carly Fiorina. Man, I’d laugh my ass off. That’d be great.

Why Unions Are Good: A Political Syllogism

  1. Unions protect the middle class. The destruction of private sector unions dovetails unmistakably with the decline of the middle and working class and the massive leap in income inequality. There are other factors, but inequality wouldn’t be as destructive if it was just one axis rising faster, instead of a complete economic divergence.
  2. When people’s lives are wrecked it is easy for them to turn toward a demagogue promises them that things will be better, and just trust him, ok?
  3. All things being equal, when economic status is comfortable the tribalism inherent in humans doesn’t have as much sway. When it isn’t, then passions really boil.
  4. Unions still have influence over their members, which is why they are beginning to enter the fight against said demagogue. Even if trade deals are bad- and by and large they have been- electing someone who would be terrible for the country would also be bad for these workers.
  5. The natural union constituency is one of the major bases for the demagogue, which makes their animosity toward him important, and the strength and efficacy of that animosity vital.
  6. Therefore, unions are good and should not be destroyed. Strong private unions are good, and the attack on public sector unions, the last true protector of the working class, are bad.
  7. Because it stops Trump, ok? IT’S MATH!

Breaking! Lesser of Two Evils Still Better Than Greater of Two Evils

“Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card,” Trump said during a news conference at Trump Tower. “And the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”


The new and more Presidential Donald Trump:

“I haven’t quite recovered, it’s early in the morning, from her shouting that message. And I know a lot of people would say you can’t say that about a woman, because, of course, a woman doesn’t shout, but the way she shouted that message was not– ooh, I just, that’s the way she said it. I guess I’ll have to get used to a lot of that over the next four or five months. -On Morning Joe

Yes…and well, we’ll all have to get used to a lot of things. Even those who understood early on- though not early enough- that the Trump phenomenon was something real and dangerous never quite came around to emotionally reconciling ourselves to his nomination. It’s one thing to imagine the hypothetical; it’s another to imagine one of the worst people in America in front of a cavernous arena, filled with fulsome county clerks and backwater ward heelers, decked in their finest patriotic hats, yowling his name every time he mentions “crooked Hillary” and how he’s going to win, as a 200-foot banner with his grotesquely swollen visage unfurls behind him, and the lights around the stadium syncopate in flashes of his name, as he snarls and preens and basks in his Roman glory while the band plays a discordant national anthem, the kind you’d hear if it was interpreted by Stravinsky as he drove a bus straight into a mountain…

Terrible, horrible visions, a nightmare of democracy, and now all be inevitable. His managing to get over 50% in the last six states shows a momentum and acceptance and a rejection of Ted Cruz. Cruz might still compete in a couple of states, and might try to prove that he’s somehow the will of the people, the only way he knows how- by lying– but it is essentially too late. There can still be political fixes, and the conventions will be ugly, but no matter what we’ve entered a howling wilderness, brought on by greedy politics and the dissolution of the Republican Party into a million little hateful camps, driven by anger and institutionalised racism and racist anti-institutionalism. It’s where the broken come not to feel whole, but to break something else. That’s the Trump appeal.

Read more on why you should support Hillary Clinton, even if you don’t like her…

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The Churchill Bust “Scandal” Was Peak Rightwing Dumbshow


Inspiring, in a “melted lush” sort of way.  (Image from The Independent)

Boris Johnson, the weird-haired and meaningless Mayor of London with a certain oddball Tory charm (he did have the best description of the 2012 Olympics: As I write these words there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers. The whole thing is magnificent and bonkers.), helpfully revived one of the dumbest single controversies of the whole Obama Administration: the Bust of Churchill. To recap, George W. Bush, for whom Churchill ranked as the finest British leader (though if he could name any beyond Thatcher and Blair, I’d be stunned), was gifted a bust of Winston Churchill early in his Presidency, and he kept it on his desk for inspiration. Obama gave it back, or moved it, or something: the point was, he didn’t keep it on his desk. We finally got to the bottom of it this week.

What’s nice is that it reminded us of how ludicrous the opposition to Obama has been, and how ungrounded in reality the bulk of it is. In retrospect, it set the template for all the idiocy regarding his Presidency.

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Political Quick Hits


“Let me tell you about my grades…”

A) There’s nothing that better encapsulates the dark cynicism at the heart of politics than a campaign manager announcing how they are rolling out a new image.

“That’s what’s important for you to understand: That he gets it, and that the part he’s been playing is evolving,” Mr. Manafort said, suggesting that Mr. Trump was about to begin a more professional phase of his campaign.

“Well, we’ve got some suckers. Now we’re going to get a different kind of sucker.” I don’t think this works anymore for two reasons: we’re too plugged in, and enough people (though far from all) hear about these cynical mechanisms. Shooting bull with political pros isn’t the same anymore. Two, and most importantly, it’s nonsense. Trump has been telling people for decades that the incendiary style is just an act, but there has never been a single recorded instance of him being gracious or decent or even recognizably human. Part of his self-mythology is telling people that he can act any way he wants, and his sycophants have to do the same (“Mr. Trump is a master of controlling himself, the very best”) but he’s always the insecure idiot who fights people on Twitter at 2AM despite having a billion dollars and a smoking hot wife. The “this is just an act” is the biggest act of all.

2.)  Ted Cruz having to explain why he should get the nomination even if he doesn’t have the majority of delegates is going to be peak-Cruz:

  • Wrapping self-interest in the whiny squeal of self-righteousness,
  • Trumpeting his endorsements while railing against the “Washington cartel” while both lacking a hint of contradiction and possessing unbearable disdain if you can’t accept which argument he spins at any given moment as the Revealed Truth
  • Unbearable smugness when explaining the rules
  • That look he’ll give when he explains why he’s the popular choice, even though he doesn’t have as many votes. You know, the one that is so condescending, as if he just can’t believe that you won’t accept that what he is saying is literally the opposite of the truth.

In some campaigns, like in 2012, a candidate has to tack so far to the right to get the nomination that they can’t get back. That’s not Cruz’s issue. His problem is that to get the nomination, he’ll have to act like Ted Cruz, and there is no getting back from that.

iii) From the same article:

Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for Mitt Romney in 2012, said that many aspects of the primary process — holding the first contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, for instance — would appear widely unpopular if posed to voters in a poll.“None of this tests well,” he said. “It’s like a bowling league. Do the rules of bowling make sense?”

Look, I’m not a heartland type, I guess, but aren’t the rules in a bowling league that whomever knocks down the most pins win? I don’t even mean this as a metaphor for Trump or whatever; I’m genuinely confused. I know that strikes and spares have somewhat strange rules, but not really, right? It’s a rolling reward for doing well. I don’t know if I don’t understand politics or bowling (or if, maybe, the chief strategist for Romney 2012 might not be a supergenius.)

Ecuador’s Radical Proposal: The Poor Shouldn’t Be Destroyed By A Moving Earth

Almost 600 are dead in the desperately poor nation of Ecuador, which has billions of dollars of damage from an enormous earthquake. President Correa?

Among the measures he announced in a televised address late on Wednesday:

  • The sales tax is to be increased from 12% to 14% for one year only;

  • People with more than $1m in assets is to pay a one-time sum equivalent to 0.9% of their wealth;

  • Anyone who earns more than $1,000 a month is to pay the equivalent of one day’s pay; anyone getting more than $2,000 pays two days and so on, up to $5,000 a month and five days’ worth

  • Unspecified state assets to be sold

Although I can’t comment on the specifics, this seems to be fundamentally fair. It seems, in fact, to be the basis of society. These measures aren’t going to bankrupt anyone, but they will help a country rebuild itself, and help protect the people who are most affected by the devastation.

That’s the thing about natural disasters: we do like to say they are the great equalizer, and it is true that the earth, sliding its enormity under our feet, is wholly unconcerned with checkbooks. A millionaire will die in a collapsed building just as much as a poor man.

But it isn’t really equitable. Someone with assets can withstand the destruction of their house. They won’t have lost everything. They won’t go hungry in the streets. They won’t have their world suddenly torn away by these ancient rumblings. If they survive the initial disaster, they’ll be fine.

And that’s good! But that’s exactly the point: no one should have all their hope ripped away by something like this. A poor person who has lost everything in a warren of collapsed brick and ragged steel is just as faultless as the person who is doing fine. Society is built around protecting everyone from the random cruelty of fate. A society where the vulnerable can be shattered and the rich entirely cosseted is, strictly, elementally unfair. That’s why what Correa is doing is both radical and needed. It’s how a society pays for itself. It’s inarguably just.

This is going to be more and more of a big deal, as the ravages of climate change become more and more apparent, and the storms and droughts fiercer. It’s the poor who will pay first. The people who benefitted from the Industrial Age will be the most protected (I include myself in that). And this wasn’t an earthquake; it’s an own goal. When we talk about the economic costs of combatting climate change, the question we are asking isn’t “how much should we spend” but “do we believe in justice, or just the rule of money?” Correa has provided a template, one that simply and radically insists we’re all in this together.


RIP Prince



This was easily the best Super Bowl show


A lot of times, when it seems like celebrities die in bunches, it’s just a product of our need to search for pattern, our instant awareness of anything that happens anywhere, our public mourning, and the sheer number of famous people meeting the normal rate of human attrition. It’s a normal thing that is elevated into a big deal, and we all pretend there is something cruel and unusually hideous going on.

That’s the case this year, though. Bowie and Prince, man. It’s a legitimate artistic and human loss. Two of the (the two most?) idiosyncratic geniuses in 20th-century music, whose influence goes far beyond their songs. But even if you didn’t know that, and don’t think influence matters, there’s the music. Prince’s pulsing, experimental, sexual and raw and controlled and inventive and weird and amazing sound spanned decades, but never defined them, because he stood apart, on top. He contributed some influence to every musician, but could anyone touch him? There’s literally no one like him, and there never will be. There probably never could be, again. How can someone be like Prince when Prince already existed?

Burundi, Cockroaches, And The Terrible Power of Language


Hassan Ngeze was a touch and hyper-verbal little criminal in Rwanda, one of those guys who is too smart for his station, but clinically unable to be anything but a criminal. It was his instinct. He insinuated himself with the clan surrounding Rwanda’s President Juvenal Habyarimana; or, more specifically, the cruel inner circle of the First Lady, Madame Agathe, the circle out of which Hutu Power spread. It’s a cliche to say that the Madame and her family were the real power, both political and intellectual, behind the throne, but it is nonetheless true.

This is the circle to which Ngeze was drawn, and his skills made themselves valuable. He was appointed as Editor-in-Chief of Kangura, a pro-government newspaper whose name roughly translates as “Wake Them Up!” It was there he really hit his stride. The most famous publication under him was the “Hutu 10 Commandments“. This list jumped around between assaults on Tutsi women (the main target), bureaucratic racism against Tutsis, buried in the middle, #8: “Hutus must cease having pity for the Tutsi.”

It worked. Kangura, along with Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines, helped create an atmosphere of fear and paranoia and violence that helped spur murderous insanity of the genocide. Ngeze stepped up his role during the killing, passing out names of targets, but in a way those were his secondary crimes. Ngeze, along with RTLMC’s Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, were put on trial for inciting genocide, and convicted for their role. These were the first propagandists to be convicted of war crimes since Julius Streicher, the violently anti-Semitic publisher of Der Sturmerthe clear antecedent to Kangura. 

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